The Winds of Badlands
2019 / Coranglais, JIll Haley
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Winds of Badlands is the seventh album from composer/oboist/English horn player/ pianist Jill Haley and is the sixth in her National Park series. Her 2015 release, Mesa Verde Soundscapes, received the “Best Piano With Instrumentation” award from Zone Music Reporter for that year, and Haley regularly appears as a guest artist on albums produced by Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studio. Several of the twelve original compositions on this album include Haley’s husband, David Cullen on guitar and bass, and her son, Graham Cullen, on cello. Haley performs on piano, oboe and English horn, and wrote all of the music.
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the albums in the National Parks Series, but there is something about this one that I especially like. From the title, I thought the music might be more turbulent and stormy, and while there is a very pleasant energy running throughout the music, it is mostly calm and expansive. Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota, and the constant winds range from gentle breezes to swirling whirlwinds, affecting the wildlife as well as the beautiful yet desolate landscape. The CD package includes a 15-page booklet with photos Jill took while she was an Artist In Residence in the park - a beautiful and inspiring addition to the music!
The Winds of Badlands begins with “Whirlwind,” an exhilarating yet soothing piece for guitar, bass and oboe and a wonderful opener! “Wind Hymn” features cello, English horn and piano and reflects on the calm of the evening breezes after the winds settle down for the night. Cello and piano is always one of my favorite duos, and this piece is both soulful and gorgeous. “Cliff Shelf Breeze” (try saying that three times!), a duet for piano and oboe, has a smooth, graceful flow that relaxes the mind and spirit. The beginning of “Western Meadowlark Call” is a delightful dialogue between oboe and acoustic guitar as they mimic the call of these beautiful birds. Bright and lighthearted, it’s a favorite. “Sculpted by Water” is the only piano solo, and it demonstrates once again how effective the piano is in describing water in any form. A series of cascading broken chords could be a rippling stream or a waterfall or rain, all of which leave their marks on the landscape over time. “Rustles of Green and Gold” for piano, guitar and oboe perfectly describes the movement of long grasses in the wind. Sometimes quickly moving yet always graceful and yielding, it’s another favorite. I love “Moon Over Badlands,” for cello, piano and English horn. Majestic yet peaceful and still, it paints a vivid picture in deep musical tones. “Prairie Grass Dance” for guitar, oboe and bass depicts the movement of grasses in vast open prairie spaces that are still wild and free.
The Winds of Badlands is another stellar album from Jill Haley (and family!) and a great addition to her National Parks series. It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby as well as many streaming sites.
June 20, 2019
Review by Kathy Parsons